Preparing for the Unknown

Preparing for the Unknown from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

The best football coaches always have a game plan. Some of them even script their first few plays so that the team knows exactly how to prepare and come out of the gate for the best start. I think in farming that we do the same thing every season. But without a doubt, the game has thrown us some major variations that we were not expecting. So now, as the coach, it’s time for us to adjust. It’s time for us to quickly take the information that we have at hand, and make new plans. And yes I meant to say plans. The challenge we have ahead of us is that it is not just a plan for one thing, but it is multi-faceted.

Some of you have had more challenges than others. We may be facing unexpected circumstances with unplanted acres, looking at herbicide programs that changed because of wet weather and delays, or even acres that need to be looked at differently for Nitrogen application. Now, our nitrogen challenges are the same in some ways as last year, and in other ways are totally different. Last year we had big rains and warm weather that led to concerns. This year, we have had cool, wet weather. Now, I am not going to talk about the nitrogen cycle and why things are different, but the fact is we still have some potential challenges there we need to face. On the other hand, there are some of you that did not get to execute your nitrogen plan at all yet, because the wet weather meant corn emerged and you can’t apply it as a weed and feed option this year.

Whatever the particulars of your situation are, the answer is that we may need to apply nitrogen in-season that we were not planning. And for those of you with center pivots, that might mean fertigation. But for those of you that don’t have that option, I think it is time to have a conversation about Y-Drops from 360-Yield Center.

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Now, I know in the last year that there has been a lot of new players in the side-dress Nitrogen market. Three years ago, you had two choices, urea, or coultering in liquid between the rows. Both of those options are still out there but have their challenges and limitations. There is no better way to ensure a dry spell than to spread urea. Because we rely on a good rain to incorporate it, we need to protect it with a stabilizer. When coultering in liquid, we leave ourselves exposed to erosion if we are in the hills. We also find the nitrogen placed as far away from our roots as possible being in the middle of the row.

So last year we saw Y-Drops really enter the market in our area. They place the nitrogen directly at the base of the plant where roots can get to it quickly. With center of row application, we are relying on time or moisture to get Nitrogen to the roots. With Y-Drops, we only need about 0.10”-0.20” of moisture to get the N incorporated. So like with so many things that see a bit of success, the Y-Drop has spawned some imitators on the market. And while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, not all imitators are equal.

Many of these imitators have come to market cheaper than Y-Drops, and mainly because they are simpler in their operations. Most of them are going to place nitrogen in the center of the rows, and as we talked about last week, I think we are going to see some root development issues from wet soils at planting and a cool, wet May. And so, saving a few bucks on hardware could cost you far more in plant development and yield. If, side-dressing your Nitrogen needs is in your future for this season, look past the price tag and to the benefits of each system you are considering. In the case of the Y-Drop, the Agronomic benefits far outweigh any cost difference there is to the systems.